Periodically, I think that I will impose order on my blog. In other words, I will come up with a set of categories into which things fit nicely. In this ideal fantasy world, those categories will have certain basic characteristics:
- one word or two short words
- descriptive, at least to me
- whimsical perhaps, which is why the descriptions might only work for me. At this moment, I have categories like “mostly true” and “mostly false” and “questionable advice.” They sort of mean something to me, but I am thinking of changing, but I’m stuck.
- A total of five. Maybe six. Preferably four.
It seems like it should be easy. I’ve even come up with lists. Then I start throwing things into one category or another.
In the end, it feels more and more like the “a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled ‘Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge,'” that Borges mentions in his essay on “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” Borges elaborates that:
In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.
And that’s just for animals. If I followed the advice that “they” always give to bloggers to find a narrow niche and stick to it, then it would be a lot easier. But that assumes that you want traffic and perhaps even money or “leads” or something like that from your blog. If that were my goal, I would replicate my most popular articles.
But what I find is that I replicate my least popular articles, because, as it turns out, what interests me does not interest many others and when something I write does interest others, it is typically something that doesn’t interest me that much. At least not anymore.
Many of those I just delete. Especially if they concern something like Drupal 6. or George W. Bush. Drupal 6 articles are just clutter — if they do show up in Google, they shouldn’t. So taking them down is a service. But that only helps trim the taxonomy so much.
Unfortunately, this is not a “narrow niche” kind of blog. Nevertheless, my taxonomies start off quite a bit more reasonable than that of the Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge.
There are Web Dev articles and Using tech articles. Those are relatively coherent categories and get most of the traffic, but are the ones I personally find the least interesting. They are typically focused on a solving a very precise problem that bothered me once, but, now solved, holds no interest to me unless I forget the solution and need to look it up again.
In fact, I periodically go through and delete ones that no longer work (e.g. as I mentioned regarding articles on Drupal 6).
So that category, if I were not trying to be concise, would be something like Handy things I want to remember how to do again, but having figured them out once, are ultimately quite boring. That’s a lot to fit in the navigation though. Useful but boring could be the tighter category for those.
Then as soon as I start going through other articles, I come across quite a few that I really just don’t like at all. They are both useless and boring. Those I just delete rather than trying to figure out where they go. So the number of articles I have here is a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. If I’m in a writing mood, I can crank out quite a few. But if I’m in a categorizing mood, then the count falls as I cull the chaff. But sometimes I’m focused on other things, so the chaff remains.
But then I sometimes find something that I have forgotten, but which I actually like and keep. Most recent rediscovery: How to tell Tom from Las Vegas, which requires a pretty strong knowledge of me, Vegas, climbing vernacular and various books to even understand. It is definitely not for the masses. The editors at The New Yorker have not contacted me for publication rights. But I wrote in about 10 minutes, with a particular friend in mind who would get most, though not all, of the references. That particular article has had two page views in the past 12 months, probably both from me.
Contrast this with the useful but boring article about how to find unlabeled Gmail messages, which had an astounding 28,000 page views, despite the fact that I no longer ever find a need to do so and think I was mostly misguided at the time.
So now I’m up to three categories:
- Useful but boring (Web dev, using tech)
- chaff (in the queue for deletion)
- things I’ve forgotten but like.
Then there are others which are semi-fictional autobiography, ranging from 10% fictional to 90% fictional.
And by the time I have moved the first 12 articles to their new categories, I find I have the sixteen former categories, which turn out hard to be get rid of, and four new ones.
So perhaps something like this
- Outright lies
- Partial lies
- Mostly true, though framed as fiction
- Things I want people to read as long as I don’t know them personally
- Things that make me suffer from imposter syndrome
- Thoughts on work
- Thoughts on idleness
- Web dev
- Nature broadly and vaguely conceived
- Poetry that does not rhyme but you know it’s poetry because the lines break really often
- Old stuff from a blog I don’t have anymore, but didn’t want to fully throw away, though I will eventually probably delete most of these.
- Humor, which judging by the comments, is not funny to readers who do not understand irony.
That’s 13 categories and seems pretty logical and comprehensive, but experience has shown that as soon as I start trying to put the actual posts on this blog into actual categories, I’m going to need at least five more.
No taxonomy survives first contact with the world.